Newsletter Volume 44

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Japan-America Society of Greater Austin
Fall 2017
Newsletter Vol. 44
November 2017
In This Issue
Thank you for Renewed Corporate Members
  Individual Membership
Click on the image to see photos.
As part of Japanese Martial Arts series in 2017, JASGA presented Okinawan Kobudo demonstration by
black-belt practitioners from Austin Texas Okinawan Karate. We learned about the interesting stories of the Okinawan weapons and enjoyed the intimate demonstration time together with the Okinawa Kobudo practitioners. 
(photo credit: Kako Ito)
(Austin Event)
Ramen Expo
Ramen Expo USA came to Austin and JASGA helped the Expo staffs with various tasks from the preparation to the live event.

The event was a huge success and JASGA's Japanese class students and members worked hard to support the event for two days. Thank you again for your great commitments
Thanks again for Ramen Expo Next Global team for sponsoring our Akimatsuri 2017!
Okinawa Kobudo 
Traditional Japanese Seido Karate
Okinawa Kobudo
Click on the image to see more.
Seido Karate
JASGA was invited by the Global Engagement Office at St. Edward's University, to give a presentation on one of the most impressive aspects of Japanese culture, the martial arts.
Thank you for the demonstration, Austin Texas Okinawan Karate and Sun Dragon Martial Arts & Self Defense! 
(photo credit: Alex Ciccone)
Photographer_ Yuri Shinoda
Click on the image to see more.
PotosL Shelby Guthrie
photos_ Kenichi ONo
Thanks to all those who helped us to make JASGA's 11th Aki Matsuri - 2017 Japan Fall Festival - such a success!

The effort and dedication of all groups, including performers, demonstrators, vendors, exhibitors, volunteers, students from JASGA Japanese Calligraphy and Language classes, and Japanese class students from McCallum, LASA and St. Steven's high school as well as the generosity of our festival sponsors, auction and giveaways donors, are much appreciated.
Thank you 
for Revewed Corporate Members!
August-November 2017 




Bronze Bridge-Builder






 Upcoming Event  
Sake Tasting and Pairing Event
Sake tasiting and Pairing
@ Fukumoto Sushi and Yakitori Izakaya
more details to follow
 Upcoming Event  
Let's enjoy 
Authentic Japanese Dinner and Networking
@ Musashino Sushi Dokoro
more details to follow
Japanese Language and Shodo 
Fall 2017 
JASGA Japanese Language and Shodo (Japanese Calligraphy) program for  Fall 2017 will be completed on December 6th.
The 2018 Spring program will start in the middle/end  of January. Please visit in the beginning of January and watch your mail box to receive your class registration!



JASGA Newsletter

 Fall 2017

is compiled and edited by:

Kako Ito 

Dear Friends,
Happy Thanksgiving week and Best Wishes for a Fall season!
In Japan, in addition to the seven days of the week, there's a traditional repeating six-day sequence known as Rokuyo. The days repeat in the following order: sensho (先勝), tomobiki(友引), senpu(先負), butsumetsu(仏滅), taian(大安), shakku(赤口). Taian is the luckiest day; it usually recurs about five times every month. Most of the wedding ceremonies in Japan are held on this day.
Aki Wedding
If you were ever wondering why, when you visited Japan, there are lots of weddings in the shrine or hotels on some days and none on others, it's because some people are choosing their wedding day based on how auspicious that day is in the calendar.
Japanese Wedding Ceremony .
People avoid having funerals on tomobiki because friends (友:tomo) will be taken (引く:hiku) to the other world. Yesterday was Saturday and taian (a luckiest day), I think there must have been many weddings in Japan.
Guest Essay
My Personal Journey with Shodo and Sumi-e
November 2017
Morris Nelms
Texas State University 
My personal journey with Shodo and Sumi-e began years ago when I took a course in Shodo (Japanese
calligraphy) in Norman, OK in the 1980s. I treasured all the material used in the class but didn't do anything with it. Instead I studied watercolor and got comfortable with various approaches. In 2015, two floods pretty much wiped out both my supplies and my paintings. A few large ones survived, but I probably lost at least 75% of the paintings I'd created. Here's an example of my pre-flood work which did survive.

Morris Nelms watercolor
The last watercolor class I took was from Paul Jackson, who is a brilliant hyper-realist watercolor painter. He told a wonderful story about a visit to China where he participated in a paint off with one of the finest traditional watercolor painters in China. Paul noticed a strong similarity in the two paintings his partner in the experience had painted. He asked him about it over a beer later. "You painted the same painting," Paul asked. "Yes. You will become a much better painter when you paint the same thing 1,000 times."  That story really intrigued me. This was right before the first flood. Then the two floods hit.  Going through what was left, I rediscovered some of the items from my first Shodo class so many years ago. It survived. My other art materials did not. So it was time to reconsider.

I've always loved Japanese ideas about art, especially Sumi-e, with its use of space and variations of black and gray. The connection between Japanese art and European Impressionism is quite clear, and I've taught it for years in my Introduction to the Fine Arts class. So I've also been looking at it for quite some time.

The spontaneity in Sumi-e and in Shodo appealed to me as a jazz musician.
Bill Evans wrote about this in his liner notes to one of the most famous jazz recordings ever, Kind of Blue: "There is a Japanese visual art in which the artist is forced to be spontaneous. He must paint on a thin stretched parchment with a special brush and black water paint in such a way that an unnatural or interrupted stroke will destroy the line or break through the parchment. Erasures or changes are impossible. These artists must practice a particular discipline, that of allowing the idea to express itself in communication with their hands in such a direct way that deliberation cannot interfere.
The resulting pictures lack the complex composition and textures of ordinary painting, but it is said that those who see well find something captured that escapes explanation.
This conviction that direct deed is the most meaningful reflections, I believe, has prompted the evolution of the extremely severe and unique disciplines of the jazz or improvising musician."
Having decided to pursue this new way of creating pictures I began looking for instruction. Of course,
there was none to be had that I could find in the Austin or San Antonio area. Remembering the
connection between the calligraphy and the art, I contacted a musician friend of mine who I thought
might know where to look. Her name is Masumi Jones, and she directed me to JASGA. Masumi is an
excellent jazz drummer I've been pleased to share the bandstand with on many occasions. I was
delighted to discover that Kako Ito and Masumi knew each other, and that Kako had known me at the Elephant Room with the Tonic big band. I have taken 4 classes with Aya Koga as of this writing, and I will continue as my schedule allows.

Learning to make the characters immediately after the 2nd flood was calming and helpful in a way that
escapes language. I found I could lose myself in the practice. Before long I started trying to use the
techniques I watched Koga sensei using in class to create images rather than characters, while also
watching the many videos of both Shodo and Sumi-e artists available on YouTube. At the conclusion of the third class I took with Koga sensei, she was pleased with my work, a picture of which appears below.
Shodo Fish names
I am quite pleased to be an intermediate level calligraphy student, though I realize there is a great distance between where I am and mastery. My paintings are a bit odder, I suppose, since in them there is the combination of things I learned from traditional watercolor study and Shodo. Also, I'm sort of doing it on my own rather than with a teacher. I've included some examples below. In the first one, I've used something that hasn't come up in Shodo but that Sumi-e painters use all the time in painting bamboo, etc. The brush is loaded before a stroke is made with various colors of paint or with various shades of ink (light gray to black). Then when the brush hits the paper, the various colors come out in ways that I don't see as often in traditional watercolor. An example appears below using three primary colors.
color sumi-e and shodo
In jazz music, the best learning occurs when the student copies the work of a master as nearly as
possible. Later the individual personality of the student will manifest itself organically. Trusting the
process is often very difficult for people in the US, as I learned from experience when I was younger.
This is a copy of a painting of bamboo by Hokusai, along with a copy of calligraphy by Aya Koga, which
means "happy morning" if memory serves.
Genki na Asa
My copy of an orchid as painted by Henry Li on YouTube.
Ran Orchid sumi-e

I would not expect my work to fool a Japanese art critic, but my Japanese friends like it, so I'm doing
something right. It's been a lifeline since the floods, and I'm grateful to Masumi Jones, Aya Koga, and
Kako Ito for making this available to me. Arigato.
Morris Nelms is a pianist/vocalist and currently teaches at Texas State University in San Marcos. He has also taught Introduction to the Fine Arts, Aural Learning, Improvisation/Combo performance, Big Band Performance, Jazz History, Jazz Appreciation, Jazz Piano, Jazz Guitar, Jazz Voice and University Seminar.  He has been taking JASGA's Shodo Japanese Calligraphy class on and off since 2015.
Have a happy thanksgiving day and see you at JASGA's Bonenkai (Forget-the-Year dinner party) on December 12th and Sake Tasting and Pairing event on December 11th. 
We'd love to see all of you!
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Japan-America Society of Greater Austin